American Elephants

How Intelligence Works by The Elephant's Child

Herbert E. Meyer served during the Reagan Administration as Special Assistant to the Director of Central Intelligence and Vice Chairman of the CIA’s National Intelligence Council. He is a recipient of the U.S .National Intelligence Distinguished Service Medal, the author of several books, including Real-World Intelligence and Hard Thinking, and many of his speeches are available on YouTube.

In the most recent copy of Imprimus, an excerpt from a recent speech on Intelligence is fascinating. “How Intelligence Works (When It Does)

Just utter the word “intelligence” and most people conjure up images of spies, secret satellites peering down on foreign cities and terrorist camps, and rooms full of young technocrats reading private emails and listening to private conversations. These images are accurate, but they reflect the tools and techniques of our intelligence service, rather than its purpose.

To understand its purpose, think of a jumbo jet flying at night through turbulent skies—thunder clouds, lightning, other airplanes streaking in all directions and at all altitudes. To navigate through this, the pilot and his crew rely on their radar—the instrument that paints a picture of their environment, enabling them to see what’s going on around them and what lies ahead so they can chart a safe course. Radar doesn’t tell the captain and his crew what to do, but it gives them the accurate information they’ll need to make good decisions.

Our intelligence service is our nation’s radar. Its purpose is to provide the president and his national security team with an accurate picture of what’s going on in the world and what’s likely to happen in the days, months, and years ahead. The assumption is that if the president and his team have this information, they can chart a safe course for our country. And if they can see the distant future soon enough and clearly enough—and if they don’t like what they see—they can take steps to change the future before it happens.

Good intelligence is a combination, he says, of information and insight. Information is the raw material, while insight is the finished product.The key to producing good intelligence lies in getting this combination of information and insight right. …You start with a thesis—in other words you decide what you want to know, then you send your collectors out to get it. The key is asking the right question.

In the period from the end of World War II until 1981, every president’s objective had been not to lose the Cold War. If things were no worse when a president left office than when he took office—he’d done a good job. President Reagan, instead, wanted to win the Cold War. He had switched from Defense to Offense. His Director of Central Intelligence asked the CIA’s Soviet Division  two questions. Where is the Soviet Union weak? and Where is it most vulnerable? The answer he received was: We don’t know. No one’s ever asked this before.

You can read the rest of this most interesting post at the link above.

Imprimus is a brief publication from Hillsdale College delivered to your email once a month. You can subscribe, it’s free. They also offer a number of free courses you can take. Hillsdale receives no federal money, remains stubbornly independent and teaches subjects like the Constitution and American History, things like that. No safe spaces, no riots. Excellent professors. Real education.

Words of Wisdom: Copy and Send to Your School Board by The Elephant's Child

“Schooling is done in public places, but the roots of an education grow only in the hidden ground of the mind. Lessons are taught in social institutions but they can be learned only by private people. The acts that are at once the means and the end of education: knowing, thinking, understanding, judging, are all committed in solitude. It is only in a mind that the work can be done. There is no such thing as “collective thinking.” Our schools can be an instrument for socialization or an incentive to thoughtfulness, but they cannot be both.”

…”At the root of our widespread and institutionalized illiteracy is a fevered commitment to socialization and an equally unhealthy hostility to the solitary, and thus probably anti-social work of the mind. In school, the inane and uninformed regurgitations of the ninth-grade rap session on solar energy as a viable alternative to nuclear power are positive, creative, self-esteem-enhancing student behavioral outcomes; the child who sits alone at the turning of the staircase, reading, is a weirdo. The students did not bring that “appreciation” to school: they learned it there.”
………………………………………………………. Richard Mitchell
……………………………………………………….The Graves of Academe

Only a Tube of Toothpaste… by The Elephant's Child
Zahnpaste, toothpaste

The Wall Street Journal offers this in their “Notable & Quotable ” column. From author César Hidalgo’s “Why Information Grows: The Evolution of Order, from Atoms to Economics: (Basic Books, 2015)

In my talks I often ask the attendees to raise their hands if they have used toothpaste that morning. [Then] I ask audience members to keep their hands up only if they know how to synthesize sodium fluoride. As you can imagine, all hands go down. . . .

When we are buying toothpaste we are not simply buying paste in a tube. Instead we are buying access to the practical uses of the creativity of the person who invented toothpaste, the scientific knowledge informing the chemical synthesis that is required to make toothpaste, the knowhow required to synthesize sodium fluoride, put it inside a tube, and make it available across the planet, and the knowledge that fluoride makes our teeth stronger and has beneficial effects on our health. Something as simple as toothpaste gives us indirect access to the practical uses of the imagination, knowledge, and knowhow that exist, or existed, in the nervous systems of people we have probably never met.

Very nice.


The Dark Ages Weren’t Really Dark! by The Elephant's Child

Medieval, the Dark Ages, a time of plagues and starvation, and gloom. Where did we get those ideas? And what was the real truth? Here’s a little historical correction for us.

Who Killed the Liberal Arts? Heather MacDonald Takes On The Universities. by The Elephant's Child

Is ar childrin lerning? Good question. The humanities are clearly in trouble. It is a mindset in the faculty and administrators. They’ve been trying to get rid of the canon ever since the sixties. I think the elimination of Shakespeare has been fairly recent. I was lucky enough to have a recognized Shakespearean expert as my professor. He had a wonderful voice, and some days he would simply read to the class, for he knew we had trouble with Shakespearean English. Other days, he would go deeply into the history of the period, and the real history on which the plays were based. Loved the course.

Samuel Eliot Morrison: “Admiral of the Ocean Sea” by The Elephant's Child

History_Ask_History_Did_Columbus_Really_Discover_America_SF_still_624x352How about we just call this “Make Fun Of History Day?” Or ‘I feel so superior because we don’t do the bad thing that our ancestors used to do.’ Tear down the Jefferson Memorial because Thomas Jefferson owned slaves. Destroy his statues!  End history.  This is beyond silly. History is what actually happened. Our knowledge of what went on in another time is limited to the writings of the time. Slavery, at the time, was simply an accepted custom, as was indenture. Teachers were often indentured servants, as were others with little money and needed skills. We look back at the institution of slavery now and realize that it was a horror for those who were enslaved, but that is our mores or customs of today.

Some day in the future, people may find our dangerous way of driving cars on freeways with so many accidents hard to understand. It’s not our business to judge the past, only to learn from it. Besides, if Jefferson had not done anything else, the Louisiana Purchase and the Lewis and Clark Expedition alone make him worthy of that beautiful memorial.

So pay no attention to those trying to rewrite history. Here’s an excerpt from Samuel Eliot Morrison’s biography of Christopher Columbus Admiral of the Ocean Seas: A Life of Christopher Columbus. Learn a little about him instead.

At the end of 1492 most men in Western Europe felt exceedingly gloomy about the future. Christian civilization appeared to be shrinking in area and dividing into hostile units as its sphere contracted. For over a century there had been no important advance in natural science and registration in the universities dwindled as the instruction they offered became increasingly jejune and lifeless. Institutions were decaying, well-meaning people were growing cynical or desperate, and many intelligent men, for want of something better to do, were endeavoring to escape the present through studying the pagan past. . . .

Yet, even as the chroniclers of Nuremberg were correcting their proofs from Koberger’s press, a Spanish caravel named Nina scudded before a winter gale into Lisbon with news of a discovery that was to give old Europe another chance. In a few years we find the mental picture completely changed. Strong monarchs are stamping out privy conspiracy and rebellion; the Church, purged and chastened by the Protestant Reformation, puts her house in order; new ideas flare up throughout Italy, France, Germany and the northern nations; faith in God revives and the human spirit is renewed. The change is complete and startling: “A new envisagement of the world has begun, and men are no longer sighing after the imaginary golden age that lay in the distant past, but speculating as to the golden age that might possibly lie in the oncoming future.”

Christopher Columbus belonged to an age that was past, yet he became the sign and symbol of this new age of hope, glory and accomplishment. His medieval faith impelled him to a modern solution: Expansion.

Thanks to Instapundit for the excerpt.

The Dark Ages? They Really Weren’t That Dark! by The Elephant's Child

Professor Anthony Esolen for Prager University. We’ve been told that the Middle Ages, also known as the Dark Ages, were characterized by oppression ignorance and backwardness in areas like human rights, science, health and the arts? We have been misled.

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